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Thomas Rothwell

Mindfulness to help you sleep

Emotional wellbeing

PUBLISHED: 5 April 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 4 October 2023

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Written by Thomas Rothwell

Tom is a qualified sports nutritionist and mental health first aider. 

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Have you ever had those continuous thoughts of ‘I can’t wait to sleep tonight’ or ‘I’m ready to get back into bed’ throughout the day? But, as soon as your head hits the pillow your mind appears to go into overdrive with thoughts like ‘what have I  forgotten to do today?’ or ‘what do I need to do tomorrow?’, or just feeling frustrated that you can’t fall asleep?  You’re not the only one - around 50% of us don’t get enough sleep! 

Sleep should be spoken about in the same light as physical activity and nutrition when it comes to our health and wellbeing. To put this into perspective, poor sleep is associated with fat gain, diabetes, heart disease and reduced productivity and mental skills.

So, what can we do to help improve our sleep? Well, good question! Mindfulness can help.  By practicing mindfulness, we can improve both our mental and physical health, which in turn can help us to improve our sleep. You can find out more in our benefits of mindfulness article. Let’s get started - below are some mindfulness strategies which could help you switch off and catch some much needed Zzz’s.

Body scan 
Body scan is a body centring exercise, meaning it’s about focusing your attention on different parts of the body, which can bring about a sense of awareness. Give it a try with a few top tips below.

  • Try this whilst lying down on the floor, a mat or a bed.
  • Beginning with the toes on one foot, move your awareness through each part of your body. From your feet all the way up to the top of your head. 
  • Be aware of the different regions of your body, and allow yourself to experience how each part feels, without trying to change anything. 

Guided imagery 
This strategy helps to focus your attention on a particular image or story, which allows you to switch off from those worries and thoughts that keep you awake.

  • Try this whilst lying down on the floor, a mat or a bed.
  • Draw a mental picture of a memory or a story that you find relaxing and calming -this will be different for everyone.
  • Start creating the story in your mind, visualising all the details, from what you can see to what you can hear
  • If you find your mind wandering to past events or future ‘must do’s’, think of that thought as a train entering and then leaving a train station – let it pass.

Breathing exercise  
Take a look at our guided breathing article for some top tips around mindful breathing to help calm your mind. 

These strategies aren’t designed to suit everyone, so try a few and find what works for you. Mindfulness practices aren’t something you’ll instantly grasp overnight, practice makes perfect!

Sleep optimisers 

  1. Stick to a regular routine of sleep and wake cycles - your body works in natural cycles/rhythms, and sticking to these could help you to sleep better. 
  2. Avoid caffeine later in the day – caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake if you have it too close to bed time. 
  3. Get moving - exercise and being active help with most things, including a good  night’s sleep. 
  4. Create a pro-sleeping environment - consider the temperature, light and noise of your bedroom. 
  5. Get comfortable - it sounds simple, but a comfortable bed goes a long way to getting a better night’s sleep.
  6. Get your thoughts onto paper, ‘dumping’ today’s missed deadlines or tomorrow’s ‘to do’s’ can help clear your head of anything that would keep you awake. 
  7. Try not to smoke - smoking acts as a stimulant and can disrupt sleep. 
  8. Avoid alcohol before bed time - yes, alcohol helps us to fall asleep, but it also severely affects the quality of sleep. 

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.

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